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Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Writer's Life 11/20 - Gallant Men & Others

The greatest generation is becoming physically extinct but its legacy endures. Here are portions of an article in today's NY Post, edited by yours truly: Donald Stratton was an 18-year-old from Red Cloud, Nebraska when he joined the Navy in 1940 — and found himself on the front lines of history. A Seaman 1st Class, he was aboard the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor when Japan launched its sneak attack. He was just 500 feet away from where a bomb hit the ship. A fireball — fueled with ammo and gasoline — suddenly went 800 feet into the air. It shot right through him and many others. 70% of his body was burned. His T-shirt became engulfed in flames and scorched his torso. The hair on his head was burned away. His legs suffered serious damage. He lost part of an ear. He was saved when a sailor working on another ship swung a line toward him and five other mates. He says: "Six of us had our lives saved by Joe George. We rallied for him to receive a Medal of Honor for his valor, but, sadly, it never happened. Because he disobeyed a direct order to cut the lines, the Navy would not see fit to give him the recognition we thought he deserved. He only received a lesser medal... After the attack, I spent 10 months hospitalized in Hawaii and California. I was 92 pounds, half my body weight from the day I enlisted. I spent so much time in bed that when I tried to stand, my feet just hung down; they had ceased working. There was no muscle reaction. I had to learn to walk again. Everything was gone. Even my fingerprints were burned off. My mom wanted to visit me, but I asked her not to. I didn't want her to see me in such terrible condition... In September 1942 I received a medical discharge and was deemed unfit for combat... I saw that all the young men in the area had entered the service. I wanted to go back... After more than a year at home, I convinced the draft board to let me back in and went through boot camp for a second time. I got sent to the South Pacific on a destroyer... I was there for the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945 — 82 days of hell. Japanese kamikazes came at us..." 1102 of the sailors on the Arizona perished. Now 94, Stratton lives in Colorado Springs with his wife of 66 years. They have five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. The full story is a new book: All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor's Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor by Donald Stratton and Ken Gire. Kudos, sir. Here are then and now pics:

My alma mater, Western Michigan, ran its record to 11-0 yesterday with a 38-0 win at home vs. the University of Buffalo. Broncos QB Zach Terrell has 27 TD passes and only one interception this season... The University of Texas has a storied gridiron history. The past five years or so have seen the Longhorns struggle mightily. Yesterday UT lost to one of college football doormats, Kansas, 24-21, on the road. It's the first victory for the Jayhawks vs. the Longhorns since 1938, and its first in two years in the Big 12. How the mighty have fallen.

A Florida man has entered the Guinness Book of Records. His distinction? He has collected 1277 pieces of dinosaur poop, or coprolite. No s---? as we said whenever questioning the outrageous.

The McDonald's up the street from the old house has been undergoing renovations for a few weeks but remains open. I went in for lunch yesterday and saw kiosks being readied. Unfortunately, they will be credit card only. I wonder how many of the minimum wage jobs, if any, will be lost.

Given the wind and cloud cover, the only way I was going to open the floating book shop was if I scored an ideal parking spot. I did. It looked like it would be a fruitless effort until Monsey strolled along late in the session and bought two works of non-fiction, one on dreams, the other on love. She has been my only customer on several occasions. My thanks - again.
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